Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The mountain and the Molehill: Part one of my adventures in God's country.
The last few days I have been spending some enjoyable time out in the Meadows section of Northampton. This is the area that the city voted to keep forever flat and unbuildable back in 2005. It's where Angela Plassman, her husband and her mother live. It's another world, fields in all directions flat and rich and gucky, land now being plowed and gussied up for spring planting. Today I met and gossiped with three farmers at work, herein called "John", "Bart" and "Charlie". I find people relax right away when I say, "Here I am, I'm Mike Kirby, a writer. I don't want to know who you are." And then you can relax and chat, and they can curse out the established order, and I can write things down from time to time, and no one gets uptight.
John was spare and fit and in his sixties, I think. He was working the edge of the field, chopping back the brush.
"I bet I'm one of the few people you meet these days that are happy with high oil prices."
I agreed with him, he was.
"Last year," he said, taking a whack at a small tree, " I got $3.60 a bushel for my corn. This year I'm going to get $7.20 a bushel. Pretty good, huh? Its that ethanol stuff."
This guy was tomorrow's millionaire. I told him I was out here taking pictures of trailers and storage containers.
"Well," John said, "No shortage of them around here."
He didn't think I was crazy. We were standing on the edge of one of those anonymous dirt roads that criss-cross the meadows. All along the river you can see trailers, prefabs, and storage containers, like these.
You'd think that if Wayne Feiden was really upset about all these possible violation of building codes, he'd send out a letter to everyone and tell them to shape up. The reality is that the Connecticut River usually takes its time about flooding,and what can be moved in can usually be moved away if the river threatens.
I saw two fairly large storage units in the distance, and I wondered if I could cross the field to photograph them.
"Help yourself" he said. It was a good quarter-mile mile, and brought me out on a small, and brand-new camping area with paved roads and storage containers, built right on the shore. No one around seemed to know who built it.
There are anomalies in this world, chlldren. Mountains that no one notices, and molehills that generate headlines. There's this huge mountain of dirt sitting out next to the runway at the Northampton airport. At least a hundred feet high, I think. A couple people told me it had been there for two years, but Bob Bacon, owner of the airport told me that its only been there since last summer. It's evidently left-over from digging two smallish detention ponds when our Conscom approved their demolishing some old hangars, and building a nice big one. I've got the DEP number on the project, and I'll know more when I look at it.
Our Conscon gets draconian about old timers building replacement buildings, but in this real world one of the owners of the airport is on the Conscom and gets to present airport proposals to her buddies, and they say fine, recuse yourself and it'll be unanimous. Take your time trucking the dirt away says the Conscom. The mountain should have been gone well before the spring flood season. But the Planning Director has more serious things to worry about than mountains. He has to deal with Angela and Jonathan Plassman's trailer. Here's the view through my normal lense
and the telephoto. Its the dinky little thing over on the left, just the thing for an accessory apartment with a view of the mountains. Strap it to some oil drums and it could float out the great flood of 2016. And do you see any neighbors around that might get torqued by the trailer? Down in the meadows Angela is a hero for her fight against the Three County "Let's build now and plan our drainage later plan".
But when Wayne Feiden wrote his little letter to the building inspector and told him to investigate, he jumped right at it. Yes boss, yes Mayor. And suddenly Angela had had enough, and she said screw it I quit. And then everyone tut-tutted, the Gazette editorialized, and everyone says if she can't take the heat she should get out of the kitchen. I was in the kitchen myself. No one who has been worked over by the Gazette and the bloviators of Northampton knows what it is like. I do. Why is Angela and her family in the cross-hairs? More to come shortly.